Friday, April 24, 2009

The browning hijacker - what does it tell us?

Wow, it seems all the hot news is down a yaad these days.

So the week started with the shocking news that a young Jamaican man had hijacked a CanJet charter plane in Montego Bay.

After a nine hour standoff where he released all of the passengers but kept the crew and where his family and friends were called to talk reason into him, the JDF eventually stormed the plane and overpowered him.

But the real shock was when everyone saw who the alleged hijacker was. Not some bad man and (despite what has been said) not a mad man either - at least, not our stereotypes of what a bad man or mad man should look like.



[caption id="attachment_858" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The face of a hijacker? phot credit: Go-Jamaica.com"]The face of a hijacker? phot credit: Go-Jamaica.com[/caption]



Instead, the hijacker was  21 year old Stephen Fray, your quintessential, even stereotypical, cute brown-skinned, stoosh-looking MoBay boy.

From the time I saw this pic of him on Go Jamaica, I was taken aback. That pic said to me middle-class, Cornwall College, the type that parties at 'Ville and hangs out in Ironshore. I knew his type. Sure enough, my FB home page started to be dotted with Montegonian friends expressing shock that Stephen could have done something like this.

And sure enough, he did indeed attend MoBay's most prestigious schools - Cornwall College and Mount Alvernia Prep.

Sure enough, he was firmly middle class - the Frays own several businesses in Mobay.

And sure enough, people are shocked and puzzled that someone like him would do something like this. But should we be, though?

Jamaican blogger rachelhaye, commenting on the situation in a deeply interesting post on DJ Ace's Kormantyn blog, noted:
The most amazing thing about the hijacking of the 737 in Jamaica is that it gives us an opportunity to examine our personal biases and national prejudices. I must say that there is a tendency in Jamaica to vilify the poor Jamaican youth of African decent–He is seen by the average Jamaican as the person to fear and target for prison. Whenever we are awakened by the news of crime and violence, no matter where it occurs in our country, the first picture that we paint of the perpetrator is that of an African Jamaican youth from the inner-city.

Interestingly, Stephen Fray is an affluent Jamaican of Indian decent, who it would seem had no socioeconomic difficulties that would predispose him to a life of crime. Every Jamaican is thus left in shock, as he does not fit the traditional profile of the Jamaican criminal. As a result, key pieces of information are being denied and the media is trying to convince us that he is mad.

Many Jamaicans may not see the value of a class/race/color analysis of the Stephen Fray hijacking, but the issue is central, because they explain Fray’s access to: the airport, a legal firearm, an excuse for his crime, strong family support while perpetuating the crime, and media’s attempt to excuse his crime.

Rachel hits the mark pretty closely, because whether most of us like to admit it or not, we were shocked when we saw not just who but what kind of person Stephen Fray seemed to be.

It certainly raises a lot of troubling questions, going beyond the actual incident itself.

Like, should we really have been so surprised?

The light and bright upper classes in Jamaica in particular (but in other islands as well) has long harboured some of the real 'bad men' who fund the drug trade and funnel the guns to the yutes dem who may think they are operating of their own volition.

Certainly when I lived there, it was not uncommon for Fray's female compatriots - light skinned, curly-haired, well to do girls, to be involved with 'businessmen' whose money came from means everyone knew were not entirely legit.

And these were not rough looking garrison dons either but men that were their social match - brown, well to do etc.

There has long been a sense that these light and bright upper classes can commit crime with impunity because dem run t'ings. They have judges and politicians as friends and their business dealings are rarely, if ever investigated or disrupted.

And if I could pick that up from the few years I lived in JA, would Fray not have picked up this sense of impunity after a whole lifetime?

I'm just asking... like I said, it raises questions.

2 comments:

  1. youcouldbelievethisApril 25, 2009 at 12:16 AM

    Most of th countries affected by the trans-atlantic slave trade stratifies their society according to race and class. In most of them colour and social standing are linked. With time the links are breaking down, but they're still there.

    40 years ago only light-skinned people worked in offices, that's no longer so, but they still occupy top positiions in society. Tell me when last you see a local white police officer? We still young, fortunately we're learning to value the person more than the image.

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  2. I heard he *was* mentally ill.

    I dunno.

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